LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Kobe Bryant was beloved in Los Angeles and beyond for his ferocious love of basketball, his unparalleled competitiveness, and the five championships he brought to Laker fans. But in recent years, he appeared to be happiest off the court, with his family and in pursuit of other ventures.
Bryant, 41, died Sunday in a helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas, sending shockwaves through the world of sports and beyond. Even more tragically, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, a rising basketball star in her own right, also died in the crash that killed 7 other beloved members of the Orange County community.
While many former players have spoken publicly of their shock and grief, the Los Angeles Lakers have not issued a public statement or posted on any of their social media accounts about Bryant’s death as of Monday morning. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, has also not posted on her usually busy Instagram account since Saturday.
Bryant retired in 2016 after suffering season-ending injuries the prior three seasons, including a ruptured Achilles tendon he limped through in order to sink two free throws. But even before he retired, he was starting out on new ventures that would lead to an Academy Award and a series of young adult novels.
His first task at hand after retirement, however, was family. Bryant and his wife married in 1999 and weathered rape allegations in 2003 just months after having Natalia, now 17. Gianna was born in 2006. The marriage hit the skids in 2011, when they announced they were planning to divorce, but the couple stopped the proceedings in 2013 and had two more daughters – 3-year-old Bianka, and Capri, who was born last June.
Bryant did not let retirement slow him down. The same year he bid farewell to his 20-year basketball career, he opened a $100 million venture capital tech fund focusing on media technology and data. He went on to found Granity Studios, a multi-platform company to create sports-themed films, TV shows and books, which made “Dear Basketball.” The animated short film was based on a poem Bryant wrote to “The Player’s Tribune” in 2015 when he announced his retirement from basketball and went on to win the first Oscar for any professional athlete.
The company’s latest projects are young adult novels. The first, “The Wizenard Series: Training Camp” was released in March 2019 and the second novel, “Legacy and the Queen,” was released in July 2019.
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The basketball icon said in a recent interview on Showtime’s The Muse, he had intended on leaving the game behind. But Gianna brought him back.
“When I took her to the Laker game, that was the first game I’d been to since my jersey retirement,” he told former teammate Matt Barnes. “We just had so much fun. Because for the first time, I was seeing the game through her eyes.”
If Instagram was any indication, the sports Bryant seemed to be most preoccupied with lately were his oldest daughter Natalia’s volleyball games and Gianna’s budding basketball career.
Bryant had coached his daughter, and the pair were on their way with other coaches, parents and teammates to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for an afternoon game when the helicopter went down. Bryant had started academy in 2018, which operates five basketball courts and other facilities for young athletes.
As former President Barack Obama noted on Twitter, Bryant’s retirement was really just the beginning of a second act that was cut too short.